The character traits of successful entrepreneurs

Tuesday November 6 2012

By James Abola

A young man who had completed university but remained jobless visited a food joint to eat pork. The queue was long and when the order was finally delivered the pork pieces on the roast stick were very scanty. Needless to say the man’s money got finished well before he was satisfied. With hunger still gnawing at his stomach linings, the young man stepped out of the eating place with a budding business idea, to become a big time pig farmer.

On hearing about his entrepreneurial desire, I felt constrained to share with him what I believe are non negotiable characteristics that any successful entrepreneur must have. In effect, I told the young man that if he wanted to successfully make the transition from a successful pork eater into a successful pig farmer then the way he thinks and behaves must exude the following character traits.

Search for opportunities
People who wait for the government to change or for the weather to first become fair do not make it far as entrepreneurs. There are millions of opportunities around us but what are usually lacking are people who take initiative to transform these opportunities into profitable business ventures. Opportunity seekers do not sit around and wait to be told or forced by events to act. Seek opportunities.
Every entrepreneur will face obstacles, ranging from lack of finance, lack of belief by customers to comments of “you are going to fail like others before did.” The successful entrepreneur is determined in the face of serious challenges and obstacles. Be determined.

Fulfil your goals
Many people think sweet talking is an important attribute of successful entrepreneurs. I think the ability to always do what the entrepreneur said they will do is more important than being a sweet talker. At times, it takes great personal sacrifice such as spending more time on the job or losing some of your profit in order to satisfy a customer. Fulfil your commitments no matter what.

I am sure you have heard the phrase “that is Uganda for you” or something near to that, the meaning being that you are out of your mind to expect quality and efficiency when in Uganda. If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, especially nowadays when we are talking about regional integration and globalisation then you must up your game as far as quality and efficiency is concerned. You must be consumed by the desire to do things better, cheaper and faster. Complete your work on time and in a manner that meets agreed upon quality standards. Commit to quality and efficiency.
Entrepreneurs take risks but they have to be calculated. Entrepreneurship is not like gambling where everything is left to chance. A calculated risk is when you use your knowledge and experience to minimise the chance of losing money and increase the chance to take profits. Take calculated risks.

Perhaps the most important trait is that of setting goals. You should have a clear idea of how your life and your business will look like say in 5 or 10 years time. You should also have the discipline and presence of mind to set shorter term goals such as what you want to achieve in the next 3 months or 1 year. Set goals.

As an entrepreneur you must get into the habit of seeking information. Do not depend on assumptions or hearsay. Do personal research, ask questions and take time to observe. Hire professionals to help out with the research if necessary. Seek information.

Plan in advance
Successful entrepreneurs are systematic planners. They decide what they are going to do in an orderly and logical way. You have to get used to breaking large tasks into sub tasks with clear time frames. Keep financial records and use them to make decisions. Engage in systematic planning.

Successful entrepreneurs have to be persuasive with customers, financiers and employees. It is important to build and maintain a network of business contacts. In business “technical know who” is vital. Be persuasive and build networks.
Finally, the successful entrepreneur does not walk with drooping shoulders and shuffling feet, no. Successful entrepreneurs are self-confident whether they are faced with a difficult task or challenge. The successful entrepreneur must believe in his or her ability to succeed. Be self confident.

As I concluded my discussion with the would be young entrepreneur I told him that most people find that they are strong in some characteristics and weak in others. The onus is to work on the weak areas while enhancing the strong points.

James Abola is a business and money coach and Team Leader for Akamai Global.

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